| A Better You |

Trust Your Gut

Usually, those who prey on or hurt children in any way don’t broadcast that with a scary appearance; they don’t look like monsters or kidnappers. Sadly, they often aren’t even strangers.
Trust Your Gut

Zipora Schuck and Devora Schuck

Older advertisements for tzedakah campaigns often pictured the quintessential poor person dressed in torn clothing with patches, a gaunt face, and perhaps a rucksack. Newer ads portray those needing tzedakah more accurately. There isn’t a specific look or appearance, as it can be anyone.

What if we used that same logic when teaching children about personal safety?

Vacation often finds children in different environments, whether a bungalow colony, a day camp or sleepaway camp, or together with relatives, so the period before summer begins is an ideal time to initiate, explore, or continue the topic.

Usually, those who prey on or hurt children in any way don’t broadcast that with a scary appearance; they don’t look like monsters or kidnappers. Sadly, they often aren’t even strangers.

This type of conversation isn’t a one-and-done discussing danger, but needs to continue as an ongoing exchange of age-appropriate and informative communication. It’s more than just a bathing suit speech.

We want to educate children about clear boundaries, both emotional and physical, whether their own (i.e., their feelings and bodies) or those relating to others, such as relatives, neighbors, and counselors.

We want to encourage children to trust their gut if something makes them uneasy about an interaction, occurrence, or the way a relationship is developing.

We believe children when they share with us or let us know.

We allow children to gauge their own comfort levels.

Just because something feels okay for some people, such as a hug, tickle, giving chills, or even personal questions or requests, it doesn’t have to be acceptable for your child.

Practice giving your children the skills and confidence needed to be assertive, whether it’s walking away from an uncomfortable interaction, speaking firmly to an adult, or saying no, without being made to feel guilty.

“But he or she is your aunt, uncle, cousin, JC, assistant, grandparent…” isn’t a valid reason for children to allow things that don’t feel right for them.

There are wonderful books, curricula, and resources in our community that will give you the language for having these conversations. The goal isn’t fearmongering or alarming your child that everyone has the potential to harm, but rather to help them develop a radar of self-awareness to realize what does and doesn’t feel okay, and to foster a trusting relationship where they know they can share with you.

It’s important to keep in mind that the first line to be broached isn’t always a physical one, but often a conversation, expectation, or relationship that doesn’t feel right for the child. Sometimes it won’t even go beyond that first line; baruch Hashem, not everyone who makes a child feel uncomfortable has further plans to groom them or is a predator.

Yet sometimes we err and challenge someone else’s discomfort at this point.

“It’s fine. It’s just your counselor, Zaidy, the neighbor….”

“She didn’t mean anything by it….”

It’s wrong to quash a child’s innate discomfort like this; the safety of an interaction isn’t measured by the outcome. The goal is for a child to recognize their feelings in the here and now, listen to the inner voice speaking to them, and give them permission not to tolerate what doesn’t feel acceptable.


Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.

Devora Schuck LCSW is a psychotherapist who treats anxiety and trauma in children, teens, and young adults.


Don’t Just Lose, Choose!

Shira Savit

"We were not born winners; we were not born losers; we were born choosers.”
—Rav Avigdor Miller

This simple yet profound quote can be impactful in many areas of life. When it comes to our relationship with food, some of us label what goes into our mouths as a win or a loss. Similarly, we judge our eating in terms of success or failure, a good day or a bad day. Women often share with me that they “wish they could just have one successful day, one good week, one Shabbos of eating ‘right.’ ”

Instead, I encourage a mindset shift; like Rav Miller reminds us, let’s be choosers. Instead of striving for wins or feeling shame for our losses, let’s wake up every day and focus on making choices. Instead of trying to get it right, we can strive to make the best choice possible given our circumstances and the tools we have available. When I focus on good eating or bad eating, then when I eat well, I am good, and when I eat poorly, I am bad. (Of course, when we feel like we are bad, this triggers even more emotional eating.)

With choices, on the other hand, we live in the gray. We don’t judge ourselves for the amounts or types of food that we eat. We try our best, as humans who might also make mistakes. We might overeat, we might eat foods we don’t want to, but we retain an empowered sense of self.

Make the choice to live as a chooser.


Shira Savit, MA, MHC, INHC is a mental health counselor and integrative nutritionist who specializes in emotional eating, binge eating, and somatic nutrition. Shira works both virtually and in person in Jerusalem.


Dangerous Smokescreen

Dr. Jennie Berkovich

The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems, or “vaping,” as it’s colloquially referred to, has become increasingly common, especially among bochurim. While often promoted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, vaping carries significant health risks.

Thousands are hospitalized yearly due to e-cigarette-related lung injuries, and studies link vaping to cancer. Ingredients like nicotine, vitamin E acetate, and flavorings can pose dangerous health risks when inhaled. Vaping is not an effective smoking cessation method and can lead to nicotine addiction and traditional cigarette use. Continued vaping can result in serious conditions like EVALI (E-cigarette and vaping associated lung injury), popcorn lung, pneumonia, and collapsed lung, requiring hospitalization.


Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician in Chicago and serves as the Director of Education for the Jewish Orthodox Medical Association (JOWMA).


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 894)

Oops! We could not locate your form.